Official: Russian dissident critical, but stable in Germany

Official: Russian dissident critical, but stable in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — Russian dissident Alexei Navalny remains in critical but stable condition in a Berlin hospital where he is being treated after a suspected poisoning, a German official said Monday.

Dirk Wiese, the German government’s coordinator for Eastern European affairs, told public broadcaster ZDF that police posted outside the downtown Charité hospital are there as a precaution while the 44-year-old is undergoing treatment.

“The circumstances of what led to Alexei Navalny’s critical condition haven’t yet been clarified,” he said.

“We expect full transparent and also cooperative clarification, especially from the Russian authorities. And before it is known how this happened, appropriate security precautions are necessary.”

The hospital was expected to release an update later in the day, but Wiese said that Navalny’s condition was “currently critical, but stable.”

“He is now receiving the best possible treatment,” he said.

Navalny was flown to Germany on Saturday from Siberia after much wrangling over whether he was stable enough to be transported.

After his arrival, hospital spokeswoman Manuela Zingl said the 44-year-old would be undergoing extensive diagnostic tests and that doctors wouldn’t comment on his illness or treatment until they were able to evaluate the results.

On Sunday, Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and aide Leonid Volkov visited the Russian opposition leader in the hospital, but didn’t speak to reporters.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Thursday and was taken to the hospital in the city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing. His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison — and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and a delay in transferring him to Germany.

Russian doctors on Monday said two laboratories found no poisonous substances in his system.

“If we had found poisoning confirmed by something, it would have been much easier for us,” said Anatoly Kalinichecnko, deputy chief doctor of the Omsk Ambulance Hospital No. 1, where Navalny was treated.

“But we received a final conclusion from two laboratories that no toxic chemicals that can be considered poisons or by-products of poisons, were found.”

The hospital’s chief doctor, Alexander Murkhavsky, rejected allegations made by Navalny’s team that doctors in Omsk had been acting in coordination with Russia’s security services.

“We were treating the patient, and we saved him,” Murakhovsky said Monday. “There wasn’t and couldn’t be any influence on the patient’s treatment.”

He wasn’t able to identify men in plainclothes spotted in the hospital last week who the politician’s allies said were law enforcement and security service agents.

“I can’t say who they were,” Murakhovsky said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week he didn’t know anything about security service operatives being present at the hospital.

“We in the presidential administration can hardly be interested in who is present in the office of a chief doctor in a hospital in Omsk,” Peskov said on Friday.

Like many other opposition politicians in Russia, Navalny has been frequently detained by law enforcement and harassed by pro-Kremlin groups. In 2017, he was attacked by several men who threw antiseptic in his face, damaging an eye.

Last year, Navalny was rushed to a hospital from jail where he was serving a sentence on charges of violating protest regulations. His team also suspected poisoning then. Doctors said he had a severe allergic reaction and sent him back to detention the following day.

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Daria Litvinova reported from Moscow.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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